Tennessee Smart Yards Native Plants

A comprehensive database of Tennessee native plants

Staghorn Sumac

Staghorn Sumac

Rhus typhina

Full sun; medium to dry moisture level; makes vigorous growth on most soils from coarse sandy to gravelly to fine heavy clay, except those that are poorly drained; slightly acid to neutral pH.

15-25 feet height by 20-30 feet spread; yellowish green flowers in pyramidal spikes 6-12 inches long in summer; compact clusters of round red, hairy fruits, each 1/4 inch in diameter, up to 8 inches long in late summer to fall.

Growth Rate: Fast. Forms thickets by self-seeding and root suckering. Can become weedy and invasive. Hard to kill this plant due to its ability to sucker from the roots.

Maintenance: No serious disease or insect problems. Susceptible to wind and ice damage. Colonies can be rejuvenated every few years by cutting them to the ground in mid-winter.

Propagation: Easy by root division in early winter. Difficult by seed as germination rate is low, and seed requires acid scarification for 1-3 hours.

Native Region: Isolated counties in Middle and East Tennessee

Open, spreading large shrub to small tree that is the largest of the North American sumacs. Reaches tree size more often than related species. Has a variety of ornamental characteristics including picturesque branches with velvety twigs, attractive fruiting clusters and excellent fall leaf color of yellow, orange and red. Particularly noted for the reddish brown hairs that cover young branches and resemble the velvet the covers horns of a male deer, hence the common name. Male and female flowers occur on separate plants, and only females produce seed. (Occasionally male and female flowers are found on the same plant.) Colonies are often single-sexed, formed from a single, suckering parent.

Most effective when drifts or colonies are allowed to establish. Best used in informal, naturalized areas where it can be allowed to spread and should not be used as a specimen or foundation plant. Occurs naturally in dry uplands, old fields, and hardwood forest edges. Effective for erosion control on slopes and on hard-to-cover areas with poor soil or on drastically disturbed sites. Colonies lose vigor in about 15 years. Cultivars available.

Very high wildlife value. Berries are winter food for many songbirds, upland game birds, small and large mammals and about 300 species of songbirds. Special value for a wide variety of native bees and for honeybees.

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